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Are You Serious?: How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly Hardcover – June 28, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the country’s most eloquent and acid-tongued cultural critics.” (New York Times Magazine )

“The scourge of literary cant.” (Ross Douthat, New York Times Book Review )

“A wizard of macho outrage.” (The Economist )


“A rare bird among American critics...boisterous and erudite.” (London Times Literary Supplement )


“One of the heroic few.” (The Guardian )


“A fluent and culturally voracious critic, Siegel writes a mean and memorable sentence.” (Financial Times )

From the Back Cover

A provocative critique of modern frivolity and a guide to being serious in an unserious age

We used to live in a world run by serious people: politicians and religious leaders, writers and artists, journalists and academics, lawyers and business executives, who approached their work with maturity and mindfulness. Today it seems as if most of these figures have all but disappeared, leaving our country and our culture in the hands of amateurs, buffoons, and professional clowns.

Yet, according to Lee Siegel, seriousness has been elusive in every age, and every age has its own particular obstacles to living seriously. In a unique combination of fiction, memoir, history, social criticism, satire, and spiritual reflection, Siegel illuminates our contemporary distractions of profit, popularity, and instant pleasure as we search for ways to be serious in culture, in politics, and in everyday life.

Are You Serious? is a thoughtful and enlightening exploration of seriousness in all its incarnations, from the heights of intellectual endeavor to the depths of political conflict to how the word itself is used in ordinary situations, from romance to business. Siegel lays bare the forces in modern life that create the silliness all around us, and he describes how seriousness may be attained through the qualities of attention, purpose, and continuity, in satisfying lives forged in bonds of work and love.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (July 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061766038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061766039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,767,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 44 people found the following review helpful By E. Giese on August 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The dust jacket for this book sounds as though it might be a political polemic: "Today it seems as if most of [the serious people] have all but disappeared, leaving our country and our culture in the hands of amateurs, buffoons, and professional clowns." What Siegel does, though, is far more interesting: he raises some profound questions about our popular culture and its limitations. He does not, though, provide any convincing answers for the conundrum he posits.

The question that Siegel ultimately asks is whether our popular culture hasn't made it impossible to be a truly serious person in public life. His first chapter is the most theoretically intriguing, where he illustrates his points with some fairly obscure Englishmen around the turn of the century, and claims that the disintegration of Christianity as an intellectually defensible foundation for a serious life left a big hole in western civilization, one that for a while was filled by what Siegel calls "high seriousness."

What follows is a number of meandering chapters that resemble a Montaigne essay (in organization if not quite in eloquence) on various topics related to seriousness. Along the way, Siegel tries to define seriousness in a quirky, almost technical way--it can be confusing in a casual reading. But there remains a point underneath it all.

Siegel asserts that we as a society crave seriousness, but it also seems that our entertainment-based culture is so razor-sharp at ridiculing any inconsistencies that it is impossible to be taken seriously for long. He even claims that the chattering classes were relieved after September 11 2001, because it brought about the end of a "crisis of irony" where no one was being serious at all--a kind of culture-wide capitulation to Seinfeld.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dusty Rhodes on June 11, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
I have come to use the internet as a vehicle of information transmission. Lee Siegel's latest "cause" is the high price of student loans. In an op ed Sunday 6/7/15 Siegel explains that he defaulted on his student loans for his under graduate degree in general studies and his MA and MPhil from Columbia. In his New York Times 6/7/15 op-ed - Why I Defaulted on my Student Loans - Siegel writes, "As difficult as it has been, I’ve never looked back. The millions of young people today, who collectively owe over $1 trillion in loans, may want to consider my example." Siegel's mother co-signed his student loans, one can conclude several decades ago. Rather than take responsibility for his legal obligation these many decades, he now jumps on the "high cost of college" band wagon, making his financial obligations a cause celebre to suggest to others that they, too, default on their student loans as a type of noble political stand. His arrogant callousness, he's now well off, motivated me to write this note. I wouldn't trust a thing he writes.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Remus on June 10, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
The author's self-important, humorless tone and meandering, irrelevant observations eventually becomes too wearing for this reader to finish the book. Is this a seriously bad book? Yes. I'm serious.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By joege on February 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terrible piece of literature save yourself the brain space
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